Saturday, September 26, 2009

OSF and Ethicist Joe Piccione

OSF purchased Carle Clinic in Bloomington, Illinois. Since September 13 the facility is now part of OSF and the forty new OSF physician employees in Bloomington can now prescribe oral contraceptives.

When OSF Corporate Ethicist Joe Piccione was hired by OSF in 1993 he told me this summer that he did NOT know that he was to help craft a policy with The Catholic Diocese of Peoria that would allow OSF physicians to write for oral contraceptives.

Here is the article from the Journal Star archives written in 1995 which describes Mr. Piccione's new job at OSF.

Make up your own mind on what Mr. Piccione knew and what he didn't....

Journal Star (Peoria, IL)

May 7, 1995



Editor's note: "In the Heartland" is a weekly feature profiling folks who do their living, working and dreaming in central Illinois without a lot of fanfare. These are neighbors and co-workers all with a unique story to tell.

PEORIA -- From his first day of work here on June 1, 1993, Joseph J. Piccione felt the urgency and knew the dilemma.

His task: search for an ethical way, under Catholic doctrine, that the growing number of doctors employed by Saint Francis Medical Center and its six sister hospitals could prescribe birth-control pills.

Many of the doctors provided that family planning service before they sold their private practices to the hospitals, and they wanted to continue even though the Roman Catholic system opposes artificial contraception.

Piccione, a New Jersey native who holds the unique job of corporate ethicist for St. Francis' parent company, OSF Healthcare System, knew that unhappy physicians could spell disaster for OSF's developing integrated health-care delivery network. Doctors could leave it or refuse to join.

Piccione worked with others at OSF to develop a policy that satisfied doctors and one that the system's owners, an order of nuns, could live with -- reluctantly.

The plan broke ground nationally in the Catholic health- care community and reflected Piccione's positive and comprehensive outlook on ethics and life in general.

"People have a sense that ethics is something that happens when you're in trouble -- that it's a negative, line-drawing activity," said Piccione, a soft-spoken but confident and articulate man who will celebrate his 43rd birthday on Monday.

"Ethics is planning to do the good in a good way," he said. "Ethics is something that pervades our activities."

The work of sorting out all the ethical issues involved in birth-control required him to draw on the many aspects of his Christian faith and training as a lawyer, philosopher, national policy analyst and student of Catholic principles.

Through an intricate set of bureaucratic rules, St. Francis' primary-care doctors can issue birth-control pill prescriptions after explaining to patients that they are doing so under their "limited private practice" -- separate from OSF Healthcare.

OSF, based at 800 NE Glen Oak Ave., next to St. Francis, doesn't directly benefit financially from the prescriptions. Patients can read more details of the birth-control policy on a statement that must be posted in doctors' offices. And doctors must individually buy malpractice insurance for birth-control prescriptions through a process Piccione and OSF helped design and isn't subsidized by the system.

Piccione said he and the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis believe the plan the sisters approved in November 1993 preserves the 118-year-old system's stand on artificial contraception while allowing OSF to "do the good you can in an imperfect world. We recognize that our hands are getting dirty on this, but in a limited way."

Piccione also helped the system's for-profit, managed-care arm, OSF HealthPlans Inc., develop a plan that lets employers contract with OSF for health-care services while obtaining "rider" coverage for contraceptive and sterilization services -- but not abortion -- provided outside the OSF network.

Both arrangements -- the coverage for family planning services and birth-control prescriptions -- received approval from Peoria Bishop John J. Myers. OSF could have offered a package of services and left health-care purchasers on their own to arrange for non- Catholic family planning services. But many potential clients would have shunned OSF altogether, Piccione said.

Accommodations are necessary so OSF can survive financially in an era when managed- care and comprehensive services are required by the private sector, he said.

The position of corporate ethicist is relatively new for OSF and reflects the Sisters' realization that changes in health care nationwide can create ethical questions that need answers, especially for a Catholic system intent on surviving long-term, Piccione said.

Most of his job doesn't involve high-profile issues, though. In lectures and one- on-one conversations, he educates doctors, nurses and other caregivers about how they can work through ethical questions.

A product of public grammar schools and a Catholic high school, Piccione once studied to become a priest. He now is married to Nancy Myers, 31, former communications director for National Right to Life, and they both live in Metamora.

Piccione's training has included a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and 14 years of work there as a "policy wonk. " For several years, he analyzed tax- fairness and family-related welfare issues -- for the conservative National Forum Foundation and Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.

He worked four years for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and was a staff member of the National Commission on America's Urban Families and the National Commission on Children.

He wrote op-ed pieces in 1994 for USA Today criticizing human embryo research and condom-distribution programs. In the 1980s, while still in Washington, he discussed death-and-dying issues on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "20/20." He was comfortable in his government civil service job when OSF learned about him from a priest he knew in Champaign. He said he accepted the system's offer because of the challenge and because it was a chance to directly carry out his Catholic faith.

Piccione said he doesn't regret moving to the nation's heartland to work with health-care providers.

"It's been a great delight and a thrill," he said. "Washington is a very heady and exciting place to be. But Peoria has a lot of concerned people, a strong tradition and pride in their Midwestern values. " @ART CAPTION: Joseph J. Piccione, corporate ethicist for OSF, based at 800 NE Glen Oak Ave., which serves Saint Francis Medical Center, must balance the needs and convictions of the Catholic church and the public demand for services.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Silence of The Catholic Diocese of Peoria

Bishop Jenky of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria has been silent regarding the fact that OSF's new acquisition, OSF Medical Group--College Avenue in Bloomington, Illinois, will employee new OSF physicians who will prescribe oral contraceptives.

Bishop Jenky was also quite destructive to Haitian Hearts as OSF in Peoria did all they could to stop Haitian children from coming to Peoria for further heart surgery.

And now Bishop D'Arcy in Indiana is accusing the University of Notre Dame Trustees of being silent regarding their discussions of President Obama's visit to UND in May. Bishop Jenky serves as a Trustee at UND.

See this article in America, August 31, 2009.

The Silent Board

In the midst of the crisis at Notre Dame, the board of trustees came to campus in April for their long-scheduled spring meeting. They said nothing. When the meeting was completed, they made no statement and gave no advice. In an age when transparency is urged as a way of life on and off campus, they chose not to enter the conversation going on all around them and shaking the university to its roots. We learned nothing about their discussions.

I firmly believe that the board of trustees must take up its responsibility afresh, with appropriate study and prayer. They also must understand the seriousness of the present moment. This requires spiritual and intellectual formation on the part of the men and women of industry, business and technology who make up the majority of the board. Financial generosity is no longer sufficient for membership on the boards of great universities, if indeed it ever was. The responsibility of university boards is great, and decisions must not be made by a few. Like bishops, they are asked to leave politics and ambition at the door, and make serious decisions before God. In the case of Notre Dame, they owe it to the Congregation of Holy Cross, which has turned this magnificent place over to a predominately lay board; they owe it to the students who have not yet come; they owe it to the intrepid missionary priest, Edward Sorin, C.S.C., and the Holy Cross religious who built this magnificent place out of the wilderness. They owe it to Mary, the Mother of God, who has always been honored here. Let us pray that they will take this responsibility with greater seriousness and in a truly Catholic spirit.

Perhaps the most important questions asked by Bishop D'Arcy revolve around the necessity for communication and dialogue to occur between the administration of Catholic Universities and the Ordinary Magistarium of the Church. The facts that he was informed of decisions after they were made suggest lack of communication and perhaps trust. His points suggesting that financial largesse trumps Catholic Cultural Values in the decisions to appoint board members is one that seems most likely. This parallels what might also be seen in the Catholic Health Care Arena which like Catholic Education has seen great erosion in Gospel driven mission objectives. Market driven financial incentives often militate against Gospel mission objectives. This article is fair, and asks some very important questions that I would hope the Board of Directors at Notre Dame and other Catholic Universities will consider, and then be forthcoming as they communicate their mission focused discussions.

By Rev. Daniel Callahan, SAf on August 29, 2009 at 12:17 AM

I pray that the suffering this debacle has caused faithful Catholics turns into a renewal of commitment to Christ, His Church, His real presence in the Eucharist and His little ones. Finally, in response to the Saturday disgraces, I do not hesitate to quote Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), who, in his 1997 book, Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millennium, wrote of the state of the Church, including the “lowering of moral standards even among men of the Church”:

The words of the Bible and of the Church fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, that let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive.